Sunday, July 15, 2007

Maximum City bound, but first . . .

Marti & I are flying to New York on Wednesday, July 18. We're looking forward to seeing our NYC hosts Jody & Emmett, who live on Restaurant Row (W. 46th St.), two blocks from Times Square.

We'll spend a day or two with them, see a few of our other pals, then drive up to the Berkshires (Western Massachusetts) to celebrate the 30th(!) anniversary of our first date. That fortuitous event took place at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

We had been coworkers at the Commonwealth Stage, located at the University of Massachusetts, when I asked out this cute young lady wearing a Husqvarna shirt with a tape measure draped around her neck.
She wasn't a biker chick.

Husqvarna also makes sewing machines -- Marti was the costume shop supervisor for the theater. The rest is history.

We'll stay at the Turning Point Inn, a chef-run Bed & Breakfast in Great Barrington & attend three Beethoven concerts by the BSO during the weekend.

Joining us on Friday will be my brother Jamie & his wife Pam, who live on Cape Cod. We're excited that we'll be able to hang with them for a day or so.

On Saturday evening we'll be accompanied by Tom & Judy McCrumm, whom we know from their excellent South Face Farm maple syrup, but have never met. Tom is my age & we have reminisced a few times via e-mail about the 1970s hippie back-to-land era in his town of Ashfield, Massachusetts. We'll do a picnic on the beautiful lawn at Tanglewood; it'll be a fun evening.

When we return to Manhattan on Monday, July 23 Marti & I will gather our pals at Lucille's Bar at B.B. King's for an NYC Krew Party.

Our friend Alan Merrill, who just cut a remix of his song "I Love Rock 'N Roll" (featuring Marti & me on gang choruses), will be sitting in with Monday Night Blues King Jon Paris & his band. Alan's bringing Kirk Yano, our favorite guitarist-producer, along as well.

Chantele DiBrava -- whom I met last summer at B.B.'s & who is the hottest item ever exported from the Cape Verde Islands -- has also promised to come & sing. Chantele has a great history of overcoming adversity, is loaded with talent, writes great songs & is blessed with five-octave vocal chops. Did I already mention that she's hot?

After the party Marti will fly down to Washington, D.C. & Charlottesville, Virginia to spend a little Q-time with friends & family. I'll remain in NYC trying to stay in trouble. One last bite of the Apple following Marti's return from the South, then it's back to Paris on Sunday evening, July 29.

The run-up to our trip has been action-packed, comme toujours. On Wednesday, July 11 Marti & I went to New Morning & heard a marvelous concert by Anjani Thomas, Leonard Cohen's longtime squeeze, who has collaborated with him on a beautiful cycle of songs.
For months we had been listening to the studio versions on Anjani's Blue Alert album (I also had an aircheck of an FM broadcast last April in Warsaw); it was a rare treat to hear these songs performed live in such an intimate setting.

Anjani's singing voice on this project is a sultry whisper, the arrangements are clean & uncluttered, her touring musicians are top shelf. She sang the material from the CD, a few other Leonard Cohen songs, then -- surprise! -- welcomed The Man Himself to the stage for the encore: "Never Got To Love You."

At this point Marti nearly fell out of her chair!

It was a wonderful coda to a memorable evening. We spoke briefly with Anjani after the show. She & I had exchanged messages on MySpace.
We simply thanked this charming woman for her generous gift of music.

The next morning I boarded the Stoners Express -- the 6:52 a.m. high-speed Thalys train to Amsterdam. This baby puts you into Central Station at 11:06, a coffeeshop by 11:15 -- technically still wake 'n bake time.

In the afternoon I chilled at my hotel for a few hours, then made my way over to the Paradiso for a gig by Gov't Mule. I had tried to rendezvous with my friends Hiyori & Oddleif & their Krew, but I learned afterward that they had arrived late from the previous night's tour stop, Stuttgart.

I was burning one down with Nick & Emilio, a couple of Mule bikers, when I saw approaching one of my favorite dudes on the planet, Gilles Fegeant, our longtime Parisian guitar-monster pal.

I hung out for the first set with Gilles & the rest of the French contingent, four rows back from the stage. I looked up to the left side balcony & was happy to see Hiyori in da house.

The Mule smoked that first set. They opened with "Million Miles From Yesterday," quickly rocked into "Thorazine Shuffle," gave us a tip o' the hat to the 'Dam with "Don't Step On The Grass Sam," mixed in some great covers like Ray Charles' "I Believe To My Soul" & an Al Green-Beatles sandwich: "I'm A Ram" > "Love Me Do" > "I'm A Ram." Whew.

It was great to hear these guys again. They are all such accomplished musicians. I've admired Andy Hess for years, seeing him first with The Black Crowes, then in a cool little New York band called Peaceful Knievel.

Matt Abts is a tornado on the drums. He got his showcase midway through the second set. I used to walk out on drum solos. Nobody leaves the room while Matt Fucking Abts is wielding the sticks.

Is there a keyboard player alive who's more fun to watch than Danny Louis? I love the way he just rips out those inventive fills & soaring solos. The guy's played with everyone from Joe Cocker to Gregg Allman to UB40. The consummate pro.

Warren's playing & singing was strong all night. He launched the second set with Allen Toussaint's

"From A Whisper To A Scream," a longtime favorite of mine. A "Trane" > "Third Stone Jam" > "Trane" followed, allowing the group to really stretch out & get funky.

Soon after, Warren welcomed the inimitable Hook Herrera, blues harp player extraordinaire, to the stage. They jammed out a couple of classics, "Can't Keep From Crying" & "Wang Dang Doodle," a scorching double-barreled setup to Mr. Abts' solo turn.

I met Hook a while back after a previous Amsterdam Mule show. Cool dude. He's originally from East San Jose, California but has lived in Europe for a number of years. Ever since I lived in Woodstock during the Paul Butterfield era, I've loved the blues harmonica. Hook is a master -- and he plays a mean guitar as well. The band returned to the stage after Matt's drums & delivered a super run of "Beautifully Broken," "Sco-Mule" & "Soulshine" to close the show. Hook came back for the encores: "Goin' Down Slow" & "Can't Hold Out."

What a sizzling show.

I ran into Gilles afterward; he was grinning from ear to ear. I finally found Oddleif, Hiyori & that gang in the lobby. They were headed to the Leidseplein for drinks & a post-mortem on the evening's proceedings. I managed to cop an after party pass from a kindly crew member, so I went down to the dressing rooms.

I chatted with a couple of folks, including a guitar player named Jon Short who hails from Massachusetts, then I spied Andy in the hall. He smiled & gave me a warm welcome, asked after Marti, thanked me for coming up especially for the show. I spoke with Warren, who is always hospitable backstage. Later I went into another room & found Hook. Big grin. My MySpace friend! Said hi to Danny as well. We talked for a while, then Danny said he was gonna go stretch his legs, he'd been sitting all night. Warren brought in Jon Short to introduce him to Hook. We were all sitting on sofas or milling about when, at Warren's behest, Jon pulled his National Reso-Phonic Delphi steel-bodied resonator guitar from its case. Warren played it, Hook sang a blues, then Hook played it & sang, then -- well, you get the picture. It was a coolass backstage acoustic blues song-swap. I don't know if Danny ever made it upstairs; I think he just got as far as the next sofa. As things wound down, I said goodbye to everybody & walked in the rain to the Leidseplein.

A bacon cheeseburger at the Pancake Corner, a 3 a.m. BBC TV movie featuring the late Tony Doyle (one of my favorite actors) & I was off to slumberland. It had been a long, fun-filled day & evening.

The next morning I visited with Hiyori & her krew at breakfast, checked my e-mail & checked out. I took a tram up to Dam Square to do a bit of shopping, coffeeshop cruising & canalside strolling before my late-afternoon train. When I arrived home, lovely Marti had a dinner of huge seafood salads ready to serve on our balcony. I love my life. (And my wife.)

Saturday night Marti & I skipped the Bastille Day fireworks & cabbed over to the Bizart to catch our friends Chris Kenna & Sal Bernardi's last gig of the season. It was a warm night & a lot of folks just hung out in the street outside the bar.

Sal was going out on summer tour with Rickie Lee Jones.

Chris' parents had just arrived from Australia for six weeks. They had the Brittany seacoast & the south of France with Chris, Karine & the grandkids in their future.

Time to hit the vacation highway!

Additional Photo Credits: Maya Guez (Chantele DiBrava); Hervé Oudet (Anjani Thomas & Leonard Cohen); (Gov't Mule).

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